Kennedy Center Honors 2012: An Eclectic Collection
If you want to know something about American performing arts culture, look at the annual Kennedy Center Awards and who is honored. This year, it appears especially eclectic.
This is a trend for the Kennedy Center Honors that’s been moving apace ever since it embraced the arenas of pop music, including not only a Sinatra but giants of blues, rock and roll and country music.
This year, it is legendary bluesman George “Buddy” Guy and one of the loudest and best of the super rock groups (think the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and the Who), Led Zeppelin, and its surviving members, getting honored.
Also selected for a Kennedy Center Honors salute is late-night talk show host and comedian David Letterman (Johnny Carson being the forerunner in this sub-category), one of the finest classical ballerinas and dancers to grace the world of ballet and dance, Russian Natalia Makarova, and Dustin Hoffman, arguably one of the finest modern film actors in the last 50 years, to stand alongside the likes of Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino.
Makarova, who is 71, came to America in 1970 and assayed a memorable turn in “Giselle” for the American Ballet Theatre and built a memorable career.
Letterman is an icon, not perhaps in an artistic sense, but in the sense of his role as late night host, a more cerebral, ironic and even cool version than, say, the more put-upon Jay Leno.
Guy won six Grammy awards playing and making Blues music, a guitar player who oddly influenced a generation of British players (including members of Led Zeppelin) as well as Eric Clapton.
The Led Zeppelin rockers—Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and keyboardist John Paul Jones—have with this honor made it all the way up the “Stairway to Heaven.” Their rock and roll, often full of anthems, lengthy riffs and pure, powerful playing has lasted and so have they—still plying their trade as musicians and super-stars.
Hoffman we remember well in “The Graduate,” “Tootsie,” “Lenny,” “Rain Man,” “Midnight Cowboy,” “Kramer Vs. Kramer,” “All The Presidents Men” and so on and so on, still trucking, still working hard at 76, becoming a very funny man in the “Focker” movie, playing Ben Stiller’s father. He was also a memorable Willy Loman on stage in “Death of a Salesman.”
Georgetowner George Stevens, Jr., is once again producing the Kennedy Center Honors which will be held Dec. 2. Stevens himself is getting an honor this year. It’s been announced that the film director and founder of the American Film Institute will receive an honorary Oscar at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Board of Governors' Dinner in Los Angeles Dec. 1—one day before the big show here in D.C.